Trends in Professional Development for Teachers
While the focus of any educational environment should undoubtedly be the students, teachers also need some attention from time to time. The role of a teacher and the tools needed to be a successful educator can evolve over time, thus it is important that teacher professional development helps educators stay up-to-date and in touch with their students. Today, there are a number of trends in professional development that seem to hold promise for making ongoing teacher training more helpful, effective, and appreciated by participants.
One exciting trend is that teachers today are often the ones providing professional development. Since they are in the classrooms trying new things and gaining wisdom to be shared, they are the ideal facilitators. It is even possible to earn Teacher Leadership degrees now. As a recent Education Week article explains, these degrees are for teachers who want to deepen their instructional knowledge and advance their careers but who don’t want to leave the classroom.
Whether educators choose to pursue Teacher Leadership degrees or not, professional development for teachers can be facilitated through a number of different avenues. Just as blended learning is ideal for students – combining technological and classical teaching methods – teachers can also benefit from this innovative educational method. Teachers can provide professional development via a blog, a teachers’ social network, or even by way of informal meetings held during the school day.
Catlin Tucker, an English teachers and blogger on Blended Learning, was frustrated by the lack of funds for professional development at her school. She took initiative and decided to start her own sessions, which she calls Techie Teacher Tuesdays. In the informal program she created, teachers come together to share their best lessons and favorite web tools over lunch.
Another logical trend that has emerged is that teachers are being taught via the same methods they’re expected to use in their own classrooms, such as in a blended learning environment incorporating technology. When educators experience the effectiveness and execution of a particular teaching method firsthand, they are more capable of successfully utilizing and implementing this method in their own classrooms.
When broaching the subject of technology in teacher professional development settings, the focus has often been on how to actually use the hardware and software. However, there has recently been a shift that lets teachers explore how to best utilize those devices, rather than just focus on the basics. This also allows for differentiation. Just as our students benefit from differentiated learning, teachers do as well. Given the vast resources currently available online, teachers can also differentiate independently, providing their own professional development and learning about practically any topic that interests them. There is an abundance of knowledge and information out there, coming from blogs, online courses, professional social networks, and more.
Facilitating teacher professional development isn’t all about the strategies and content. There are also practical concerns that should be taken into account. First, make sure what you are about to share is important and is worth every moment of your teachers’ time. If you are not sure that what you have planned or the activity you are going to run is absolutely going to improve and support your faculty’s teaching, then you need to rethink your topic. Second, provide food and drink. You don’t have to order a gourmet meal, but some cookies and coffee would be nice, especially after a full day of teaching.
Whether you have the formal backing of your school and district or you are initiating professional development for teachers on your own, using a blended learning approach and accounting for practical considerations are very important. If you utilize both the personal and technical resources available, you can demonstrate a model of teacher leadership that will benefit your entire learning community. The more teachers develop their skills and hone their craft, the better they will be able to ensure that their students learn and grow in optimal ways.